The Lincoln Lawyer

NG For Not Guilty


17 March 2011| No Comments on The Lincoln Lawyer     by Sean Chavel


It’s not a bad movie it’s just that there’s not enough to recommend to tell you to go out of your way to see it. The Lincoln Lawyer is at least Matthew McConaughey’s third turn as a lawyer, and by now, he’s got a hang on it – in this movie he defends everybody even when they are certainly guilty and has come to believe that all his clients are actually guilty. If they professed innocence not even he would believe them. There’s an interesting criminal case and good courtroom scenes, and ironies in how one criminal case intersects with other ones. But the court scenes have more believability and depth than some of the supporting character motivations. William H. Macy, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston all make sense in their roles, and Ryan Phillippe is slippery as the accused. For perhaps the first time ever Marisa Tomei does not belong in a movie and when she’s on the story gets distracted. No sparks either with McConaughey as her ex and legal adversary. Frances Fisher as the accused boy’s mom also does not come off as a credible person. The ending is somewhat of a jumble of three scenes and although they have you concerned they don’t really leave you breathless. Oh OK and that’s it, type of feeling.

Mick Haller (McConaughey) knows how to talk a client up another $5,000 to pay him for defense. He’s good at that. When he meets pretty boy Louis Roulet (Phillippe) who has been charged with sexual battery, he insists that in attorney-client confidentiality that everything should be laid out on the table. Mick gets pissed when he finds out info later about his client Louis – like that with all that money and his Maserati sports car still pays for trashy hookers and that he carries around a Bowen knife – not because his morals have been dented but because it will make it harder now to go up against the District Attorney. But his client feels humiliated and treated unfairly because he is innocent. But hey, Mick’s heard that one before. Louis will not plea bargain for a six month stint in county jail, because he’s rich like that. It’s all or nothing, and Louis wants it all his way.

Mick’s been handling dirtbags for so long that he doesn’t feel in quite his own element when he’s now defending a family of moneybags. At a certain point Mick feels humiliated for the first time in his professional vocation because he does not like being manipulated by rich people trying to halo their power over him. He gets to the point where he sends out his right hand man Macy (reprising his haircut from “Boogie Nights”), a private investigator and law researcher, to dig up more dirt on his own client. Further research paves way for Mick to realize that one of his former clients serving life in San Quentin is not only implicit in his current case, but now probably innocent.

When it comes to comic relief McConaughey is his own icebreaker. He’s been given some good dialogue to work with, and I like how he goes from incensing a petulant biker gang to making pact with the biker gang to now work favors for him. One of the guys with less dialogue in the movie is Laurence Mason as Mick’s full-time Lincoln Cadillac chauffer – I kept waiting for him to say something funny, but it’s curbed (Mick’s DUI prohibits him from driving at the moment). In the courtroom, McConaughey goes head to head with Lucas (“Sweet Home Alabama”), a second party, a third party and himself – the plot is less crooked than zig-zaggy. Parts of this is smartly constructed law and order mystery and yet there is a thread or two that is too convenient (doesn’t a lawyer who makes that much money install a decent alarm system in his home, and also a safe to lock away his Colt?).

Mick is always working. Even when he’s drinking beer – which is a lot – he’s talking law. When he’s making love to Tomei no sparks fly and it’s a lovemaking scene that is shot and edited equivalent to smear paint. Why even show it? It’s all fuzzy close-ups and roving pans moving across unknown body parts. I kind of got that feeling again at the end when two characters show up at the same house and was uncertain who’s house it was, to be followed by the biker gang. If I saw this on DVD and played the subtitles I could then probably get why they showed up at that particular house. But that said I might as well just tell you to wait for DVD.

118 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “And Justice for All” (1979); “The Firm” (1993); “A Civil Action” (1998); “Michael Clayton” (2007).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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